Somewhere between light and dark, I thought I saw several tails slicing through the dead calm surface ahead of us. We continued to quietly watch and were soon rewarded with a scene only a shallow water fishing nut could really appreciate.
Tails up, heads down, feeding reds in several directions. My BP instantly went up several points.
"Make a long cast between those two groups and let it sit for a 10 count,"I said.
Capt. George Tunison
I watched Fred slowly and painfully stand bones creaking and cracking from nearly 60 years of Midwest farming as he whispered, "Cast, Cast where? I don't see a bleep, bleep thing!"
I started to panic as I whispered, "Look down my arm, see them, see?" After what seemed like several minutes squinting down the length of my arm and rod he finally proclaimed, "Oh yeah, got it."
Fred told me the story of how his father had taken him to a farm pond and taught him to cast an old push-button Zebco mounted to an ancient fiberglass pole and how he caught bass after bass on this old yellow and silver Zara Spook. Only lure he had ever used.
Fred first told me this story when he first called me inquiring about a "real guided Florida fishing trip to catch redfish."
He told me he had read every issue of Sports Afield for decades and thought that redfishing must be okay and that someday he was going to get it done. We set a date almost a year in advance and over the following months he would call regularly for a fishing report always managing to fit in his - exact same - childhood bass adventure. I even have a full length version of it on my answering machine. That's OK as I now regularly find myself standing in rooms with no clue of purpose. I get it.
When he showed up he had a rod with him which I quickly stowed as we shook hands and got underway. As we got out into the harbor I stopped to prepare everything and discuss the game plan before moving up to the flat.
"I really want to catch a redfish on this rod to honor my father," he said. He told me he had oiled it up and it was ready for duty.
He handed me "the" old jumbo Zebco push-button and fiberglass rod. I pulled out some line and with a quick tug broke it. I quickly respooled the trusty Zebco with Power Pro (a first?), added a leader and one silver and yellow antique Zara Spook.
"Remember, cast between the two pods of fish!" I said as he launched a high and outside cast falling directly on top of one pod causing the dozen or so fish to bolt at warp speed and my heart to sink to my knees. Guide hell.
Thankfully, the fish didn't go that far and the other groups didn't seem to mind as the chow was plentiful. "Let it sit, now work it."
The Zara moved two feet and reds attacked from three directions streaking across the flat to intercept my client's dancing plug, missing it, desperately trying to eat it. He yelled as he struck at the fish repeatedly without hooking up.
Let me see those hooks, I said. He handed me the nearly 40-plus-year-old lure that his father had passed on to him. Only one-third of the paint remained and all nine points of the three trebles had lost any hint of hooking power somewhere in the '60s.
A quick hook replacement and Fred was into one of seven nice reds he caught that morning with a fat 31-incher the big fish of the trip. All on the Zebco, all on Dad's silver and yellow Zara.
Fred "officially" has booked me for the same date for the next 20 years. He still calls from Nebraska for his monthly report.
Happy 86th Birthday Fred!